Matthew recorded Jesus’ words:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
One of the questions we sometimes have to ask is “Why did Jesus specifically say this?” If we don’t then we may simply attribute Jesus’ words as nice, or perhaps poetic. But instead, here Jesus is making a definitive statement.
THE YOKE OF THE TORAH
The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders were steeped in the Torah, the Jewish law. In fact they had a term “To carry the yoke of the Torah” for those seeking to vigorously and robustly keep the Jewish law with all of it’s finer points and nuances.(according to N. T. Wright) This was not for ordinary people, not for those of simple faith, no these were the conference speakers and latest hot authors of their day. Underachievers need not apply.
Abraham was their father, this was so important, culturally speaking, that everyone had memorized their ancestry. It was passed down from generation to generation.
And yet, even with the Torah and their connection to Abraham their view of God was one of distance, who could approach God? Who could know God? Who could be God’s friend? This was something that seemed unapproachable and unattainable to the majority of common folk. It was like having to memorize the encyclopedia on gardening before you even tried to grow flowers or tomatoes.
Have you ever tried to assemble something, maybe from IKEA or elsewhere? the fine print, the directions, one small misstep is all it takes.
That feeling of “I’ve done everything I was suppose to, why doesn’t this work?” or “Everytime I think I know what’s going on the game changes.” can become a constant and disheartening situation. This was certainly true for everyday Jewish folk 2000 years ago.
Yet here Jesus comes on the scene
(V25-26) Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
This is reminiscent of his mother, Mary as she responded to the angel at the annunciation known as The Magnificat, the song of Mary, found in Luke chapter one says in part:
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
Both of these “MAGNIFICATS” reveal something about the Kingdom of God.
They upend the conventional wisdom of survival of the fittest. The person who yells loudest usually gets his way but not so; The quiet person of prayer is the one who will be heard. The bully who seeks to intimidate others will find himself muzzuled and disarmed before a shepherd who loves his sheep, and takes care of his own. The status quo will be upended as the Kingdom of God welcomes the Humble & the Hungry. The mighty will be sent away empty-handed.
More than this; God the Father through Christ was revealing himself to Mankind. Through Jesus God was saying “If you want to know me – know my son.” Jesus was saying “If you want to know the Father, know me!”
Everything the Jews sought from the Torah and their ancestry (knowledge of and friendship with God) was to be had from Jesus, not Abraham, Abraham would have told them so himself.
Jesus taught his disciples that God was Father, they learned this so well that it got them in trouble with the Jewish leaders and with the empire over and over again. That’s why the Apostle John wrote
“Behold what manner of LOVE the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the sons and daughters of God!”
“If you want to know me – know my son”
“If you want to know the Father, know me!”
(V27)No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
“You can’t know the Father except through me”
Initially Jesus words sound conditional,and yet, Jesus takes a breath, turns to those who are there; some common people, quite ordinary, the kind of folk his Mother Mary had spoke of, The “Humble & The Hungry” and he says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”